Delivering Faster Lab Turnaround Through Lean

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Tejas Gandhi
Asst Vice President
Virtua Health

Joshua Bosire
Management Engineer
Virtua Health

Improvement ideas are frequently considered in most organizations, but it is often rare that these ideas are pursued and implemented. Lean offers a powerful set of tools to address this issue. Born in the automotive industry, Lean focuses on eliminating waste (non-value-add activities) throughout a process or set of processes. The reduction or elimination of needless steps such as inspection, wait times and travel distances while maintaining focus on the activities that customers are willing to pay for is the core of Lean thinking. Learn the use of Lean principles and how they can help bring change and buy-in a laboratory environment.

The upward trend in healthcare costs has invigorated the pursuit for a gamut of productivity improvement solutions. This has led to the adoption of concepts like lean manufacturing, a combination of techniques that are often leveraged to facilitate the elimination of waste and the eventual enhancement of the value derived from business processes. Despite being a technique founded in the automotive industry, lean has recorded widespread success in both the manufacturing and service industries. Over the last decade, lean has increasingly infiltrated the healthcare industry and established itself as a potential solution to the predicament of healthcare delivery costs.

In most healthcare delivery environments, lab results assist clinicians in more than 70 percent of their care delivery decisions. Virtua Health recognized that improvements made to lab the processes, especially reducing wait times, would have a ripple effect on the quality of care across various critical departments. For instance, faster results on blood-work would facilitate the timely delivery of care the emergency department (ED), thereby expediting patient discharges among other things.

Virtua Health, a non-profit multi-hospital system headquartered in Marlton New Jersey, employed Lean methodologies at its Voorhees campus laboratory to discover where bottlenecks and waste occurred and to streamline the specimen collection process. As a result of the Lean efforts, the project team implemented Kaizen improvements that were able to translate to: - Tighter inventory controls - Elimination of obsolete inventory - Decreased patient wait times - Improved lab turnaround time by 35 minutes - Decreased travel distances for members of staff - 40 percent reduction in the distance traveled to restock trays